3 questions to ask before delaying a claim for social benefits


Yesour 62nd birthday is a milestone: you become eligible to claim your Social Security benefits. But many people choose to wait because starting checks at age 62 results in a reduction in their monthly income.

If you’re 62 or about to do so and trying to decide whether to start your checks right away or wait and get bigger checks, ask yourself these three questions.

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1. How is your health?

A delayed claim for Social Security benefits means giving up benefits you might be receiving now in exchange for the promise of higher benefits in the future.

If you’re in poor health, however, you may run out of income now and never be able to claim those bigger checks. Or, if you die soon after making a deferred claim, you might receive larger checks for such a short time that they don’t make up for all the income you missed in the meantime. This could make the early deposit a much better financial move.

2. How will this affect your spouse?

Delaying a Social Security claim could result in higher survivor benefits. This is because the surviving spouse essentially keeps the larger of the two benefits that the spouses were receiving. This is a big plus to delay if you have the highest income and want to make sure your spouse is taken care of.

But there is a downside to waiting for benefits to begin. If your partner is considering claiming spousal benefits on your employment history, this is not allowed until you have requested your own checks. In situations where your spouse has very little or no benefit based on a limited or no work history, you may want to file as early as possible to unlock access to spousal benefits and allow your partner to start collecting income from Social Security – – even if that would reduce any future survivor benefits.

3. How will this affect your savings?

In some cases, if you don’t apply for social assistance sooner, you may have to withdraw too much money from your savings to support yourself. Most people need income from savings and social security after retirement because benefits alone are not enough.

If you’re delaying Social Security checks because you’re trying to increase your benefits, you still have to pay the bills, ideally while maintaining a safe withdrawal rate. But if you can’t handle it, you’re probably better off relying on a combination of savings and Social Security, even if that means you can’t maximize your retirement benefits. Otherwise, your efforts to overload your Social Security checks could make you worse off throughout your later years.

The answers to these three questions can help you make the right choice on whether or not to delay your claim for benefits.

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